How To Write a Scientific Research Paper for Journal Submission
Scientific research papers are written to communicate the reasons for conducting original research, the experimental and observational processes used in the investigation, and the key findings attained through those methods, ideally along with some interpretation and discussion of what the outcomes mean in practical or theoretical terms. Content and structure vary widely, of course, and not only because each research project is unique. Author intentions vary as well, and so do the instructions and guidelines that university professors and journal editors provide for exactly how students and authors should write scientific research papers. The first place to begin, then, is with the guidance available for the scientific research paper you need to write.
If the instructions or guidelines offer advice on the organisation of scientific research papers, they will probably outline some version of a traditional IMRAD structure for reporting empirical scientific research. This structure begins with an Introduction, moves on to describe the research methodology in a Methods and Materials section, follows that with a presentation of Results (or Findings) and finally offers a Discussion of the research outcomes and their meanings. Readers are thus presented with essential information in a logical order. The Introduction establishes the context, motivation and value of the research. Methods and Materials are vital for understanding how the research was done, assessing it accurately and replicating the experimental conditions and procedures. In the Results section the research findings are reported and in the Discussion those findings are interpreted and discussed, ideally in relation to the motivation behind the research as explained and demonstrated in the Introduction.
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The IMRAD acronym lacks reference to the Conclusion that appears in many scientific research papers, but concluding thoughts, along with recommendations for practice and research, are almost always a requirement. They can appear as the final paragraph of the Discussion section or in a separate Conclusion, which might itself be subdivided into sections such as Implications and Recommendations. In some cases the Results and Discussion sections of a scientific research paper are combined, enabling results to be interpreted for readers as research data is reported. This can be an effective strategy when explanation is essential for the targeted readers to make sense of the findings, and it can add interest to a potentially dull report of research results. The guidelines provided by publishers and instructors may address structural variations of this kind, and studying the organisation of successful scientific research papers in your area of study will always provide helpful models for your own writing.
Often a scientist or student gathers a great deal more experimental data during an investigation than is required or effective for persuasively demonstrating the significance of the results in a scientific research paper. To streamline your presentation and avoid distracting or disinteresting readers with excessive detail in your main text, make good use of figures, tables, appendices and archives. For example, the trend you are discussing could be presented in a graph in your Results or Discussion section and a table offering the more detailed data included in an appendix for your instructor’s inspection or a peer reviewer’s scrutiny, as well as for the specialists who will read your paper if it is published. They may not be central to a traditional IMRAD structure, but appendices, archives and other tools for presenting supplementary material about results, methods, previous scholarship and many other aspects of advanced research are usually acceptable in scientific research papers.
Also neglected in a basic IMRAD structure are the elements that must appear at the beginning and end of scientific research papers submitted for publication and grading. A title is always required and must be clear and concise as well as interesting and informative. An abstract is usually necessary and might be structured into sections or not, but its object remains the same: to summarise the research and its findings for a wide range of readers. A complete list of references for the studies cited in a scientific research paper is a standard requirement as well and should use a consistent style as indicated in the guidelines. Finally, acknowledgements and statements regarding financial support and conflicts of interest are also common requirements for a publishable scientific research paper.
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If you are in the process of preparing an article for an academic or scientific journal, or planning one for the near future, you may well be interested in a new book, Guide to Journal Publication, which is available on our Tips and Advice on Publishing Research in Journals website.
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